I get asked sometimes if I brought a lot of stuff with me from America.
I did bring 3 large suitcases, 1 75L backpacking bag and 1 tote. All full of stuff. However, all of it are thing I use frequently! Except for a few special occasion things (like my batman onesie) -That’s a topic for another post
One of the most important items I brought with me is a pair of canvas with notes glued to them.
F L A S H B A C K
It was the summer of ’10. I was working at Frontier Ranch in Scott’s Valley, CA. It’s a great summer camp for kids. Tons of fun! As a counselor there, I was able to play around with children, do sketch comedy, and meet other people from different states and countries. It was a total blast.
At one point during the day, there was ‘mail time’. It was the time when the kids would receive the care packages that their parents gave them so they didn’t miss home as much. For the counselors, it was a time when notes were handed out from other counselors or employees.
Often, these notes were a joke from friends, making fun of something a kid did the day before, or laughing at someone’s camp name.
Side note: My name was Scorching Raven, because I’ve always had a cool nic name in my life 😉 *except for the time as a freshman in high school when I tried to get “the surprise” as my nic name. It was my AIM username, my email address, and I’m sure I wrote it down on my Facebook originally. It never caught on.
Sometimes, those notes would be more meaningful. They would be little thank you’s for helping out here. Or perhaps a “you’re a great guy” thanks for letting me vent. Being a counselor is tons of fun, but it gets exhausting at times, and you rely on people to help you get through the week.
These notes were the most sincere ones, as people needed genuine time with someone aside from the chaos of summer camp with kids.
I kept plenty of those notes.
A year later, I worked nearby at a Kampground of America in Watsonville, CA. During that summer doing similar duties with a closer knit group, we would take time at the end of the summer to write more intentional notes to one another.
I kept those notes too.
F L A S H F O R W A R D
I don’t like to keep trinkets or little souvenirs too often. Sure, I’ll keep the more meaningful ones, but if I come across something I own and I’m not (a) using it within a year or (b) can’t remember who gave it to me, it’s getting donated (Please stop trashing good things, when you can donate it)
However, one day after college, I was going through a lot of my school papers, and tossing them out. I found a bunch of these notes piled up. I started reading them. They read…
- I’m thankful of Michael’s excellent positive outlook
- I’ve never met someone so willing to listen and open to comfort as you…
- Your love and acceptance for people is awesome…
- We just wanted to let you know how handsome we think you are…
(I promise I didn’t make this one up. PEOPLE ACTUALLY WROTE THIS)
- Thanks for putting up with my high maintenance all summer…
- …I just love being around you!
Post university life wasn’t great for me. I felt like I was poorly adjusting to my expectations of life, the reality of adulthood, and a horrible job. I was not happy. My unhappiness overflowed into my friendships, romances, and employment.
Then I found these notes.
Reading the notes reminded me of how much I’d changed. People enjoyed being around me, people opened up to me, and I was known for being loving. I was reading these notes and I felt the urge to return to myself. I wasn’t sure how to but I needed to get back to being the person that people recognized me as.
I decided to glue those notes to a canvas and put those canvases on my wall. They were placed in a location where I would be forced to see that every day.
I was reminding myself of who I was.
P R E S E N T
I still have those canvases on my wall here in Auckland. I’ve added a few notes over time that are reminders of who I am and the positive ways people see me. They are just as helpful in my life now as they were in the past.
There are times when I don’t act like myself. When I act out irrationally, when I act with envy, or when I act out of hurt.
Even when I don’t act like myself, these notes remind me of who I am.
There are times when I admit to people, I’m an egotistical prick, who taunts others from my high horse, and sets out to push others down as the only way to be lifted up. Ouch.
Even when I don’t believe what they say, these notes remind me of who I am.
There are times when people don’t recognize who I am and in their moments of acting outside of who they are will call me something like worthless, stupid (I was called that a lot as a child), or useless, either in their words or in their actions.
Even when I’m told something different, these notes remind me of who I am.
There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Put these words in your heart and in your soul. Bind them as a sign on your hand. Place them in front of your eyes.”
I came across this verse after I posted these canvas notes on my wall. To be honest, it makes sense why it would say to do this. With these reminders, I stay closer to who I am everyday. I am a better person in my friendships, romances, and employment. I am confident in myself because I’m reminded daily of who I am.
I will have days when my foundation is shaken. A person may act unlike themself and label me something I am not. I will have days when I don’t believe in myself.
Nevertheless, these notes will remind me of who I am.